Friday, April 29, 2016

What Has Stefani Carter Been Up To?

You remember Stefani Carter. The former Texas state representative for parts of Richardson. Swept into office in the 2010 tea party wave. The self-proclaimed "first black female GOP state representative" (which highlights how delinquent the Texas GOP was). The ambitious politician who campaigned nationwide for Mitt Romney in 2012. (How'd that work out?) Who attempted to climb to statewide office (Texas Railroad Commission) only to discover that the moneyed interests had other candidates in mind. Who scrambled back to her legislative race but lost her seat anyway when voters abandoned her for Linda Koop. All that was covered by The Wheel back in the day.

So, that Stefani Carter. What has she been up to? Spoiler alert: her activities in the private sector are raising eyebrows just as her activities in public office did.

She owes one role in the private sector to her days trying to win a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas pipelines in the state. While she was still a state legislator, she was appointed to the board of directors of a hotel company, Ashford Hospitality Prime. What do hotels have to do with oil and gas pipelines, you ask?

Ashford Hospitality Prime's CEO and Chairman Monty Bennett owns an exotic wildlife ranch in east Texas. The Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) wanted to build a pipeline from east Texas to supply water for north Texas. TRWD's pipeline might have crossed Bennett's ranch. Who knows, maybe Bennett figured having a state legislator on his board of directors, one with ambitions to serve on the Texas Railroad Commission, couldn't hurt his efforts to keep a water pipeline away from his exotic wildlife. In any case, Stefani Carter ended up on his hotel company's board of directors. And she took a personal interest in the plans for a water pipeline across the CEO's ranch. All this, too, was covered by The Wheel back in the day.

That brings us to today. Sessa Capital is the third largest shareholder of Ashford Hospitality Prime. According to The Wall Street Journal, Sessa is "accusing the luxury hotelier of corporate governance failures." Sessa is putting up a slate of five director candidates to replace Ashford Prime's existing board of directors. In a letter to Ashford Prime shareholders, Sessa accused the incumbent directors of a "breach of fiduciary duties." Stefani Carter is called out by name as a "supposedly independent director" who is asked "to explain to Ashford Prime shareholders how potentially taking in excess of $200 million of the shareholders' money and giving it to a related party controlled by Chairman Bennett — and getting nothing in return — is consistent with their fiduciary duty obligations to Ashford Prime shareholders."

And that's what Stefani Carter is up to now. She's still carrying water for the exotic wildlife rancher Monty Bennett. And she's up to her neck in a corporate governance fight in which she and her fellow board members are being accused of "breach of fiduciary duties." All in line with the Stefani Carter we remember in Richardson. I don't know if I ever thanked Linda Koop for running against Stefani Carter and defeating her in 2014. Oh wait. Yes, I did.

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